The 16 Most Essential Craft Breweries in Asheville
From iconic IPA peddlers to newfangled sour specialists.
It’s easy to see why Asheville was first named “Beer City, USA” back in 2009. With more than 30 breweries to date (and counting), the city has imploded into a destination known for the Great Smoky Mountains and some of the South’s best breweries. From tongue-twisting IPAs, sours, and experimental beers to easy-drinking porch pounders, and everything in between, there’s a handcrafted pint for every palate.
And beyond standout suds, each brewery (much like each pocket of Asheville) has its own vibe. West Asheville is home to stellar spots such as Archetype, UpCountry, and local favorite Oyster House Brewing, while South Slope has been coined the Brewing District thanks to its concentration of thirst-quenching outfits like Bhramari, Burial, and Catawba Brewing Co. The majority of Asheville’s breweries are centralized in or within walking distance of hilly downtown, which gives curious drinkers a fair chance to walk off a few calories in between stops. And even more exist off the beaten path, with ample space to sit outside and take in the sweeping views.
Bonafide hop heads and beer novices alike find the scene quite impressive—perhaps even overwhelming. That’s why we put together this list of 16 must-visit craft breweries to hit while you’re in town. Don’t forget a mask up and, as the times change, check individual websites ahead of time for updated pandemic precautions.
This West Asheville’s newcomer utilizes three different types of wood for fermentation, lagering, and aging to bring nuances into its innovative fleet—merging old-world techniques with modern-day beer making. Head Brewer Mark Goodwin, along with Harrison Fahrer and industry vet Bill Zimmer, focus on regionally focused creations like Tether, a farmhouse ale crafted with North Carolina-grown Riverbend malt, oats, and Barbe Rogue hops, all fermented on cherry wood with a wild Saison strain from Haywood Road and dry-hopped ever so lightly with Huell Melon hops. When hunger strikes, conveniently order tableside grub via W.A.L.K., a gastropub stashed across the street. It should also be noted that Cellarest’s housemade beer (unless otherwise noted) stays below the 20 parts per million mark when it comes to gluten, the standard marker for being considered “gluten-free.”
Beers to try: Tether Farmhouse Pale Ale, Tristrot Key Lime Gose
Think of Rye Not as Asheville’s version of a traditional pub reimagined, where craft brews, whiskey (distilled in-house), and comfort food unite. Former Navy captain and Asheville native, Bob Byron, brought this spot to life after retiring as a way to reinvent himself, teaming up with Jimi Rentz, the brains behind Asheville’s Brewgrass Music Festival to make it happen. Both the food menu and tap list pay homage to Navy heroes, with David Farragut French Onion Soup and Captain Bob’s Coffee Porter leading the charge. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on the Rye Pretzel Knots served with house-made sausage and whiskey-pickled vegetables and washed down with a crisp dunkel lager.
Beers to try: Captain Bob's Rye Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Ale, Captain Bob’s House IPA
Biltmore Industrial Neighborhood
New Origin Brewing Company consists of a very small brewhouse and taproom cranking out a mix of new school and experimental beers and bringing yet another noteworthy space to add to your weekend drinking agenda. Sip on easy-drinking zwickel, quaff an unfiltered helles-style lager, or check out Peach’s Dream Castle, a fruit ale conditioned on peaches and Nilla wafers that drinks like a tasty smoothie. If hunger strikes, BYOS (bring your own snacks) or order local delivery straight to the brewery.
Beers to try: Green Pulse, Peach’s Dream Castle, Zwickel
Biltmore Industrial Neighborhood
Jeffrey and Jessica Horber, the husband and wife duo behind Cursus Keme, have done a solid job at transforming an old tractor-trailer repair shop into a sudsy oasis. It’s tucked away on a green space along the Swannanoa River, so you really have to seek it out—the website is elusive and Instagram offers just touch more information. Bottom line? It’s well worth the hunt—drink whatever fresh brews line the current menu and fill up a growler of your favorite to-go. Live music is back, so post up at a table and soak up the in-the-know scene.
Beers to try: Entheogen Triple IPA, Ssstout
North Asheville, South Slope
This OG on the scene has been keeping Asheville well-satiated since 1998, when it opened its North Asheville location. That one is a glorious brewpub/movie theater concept and serves tasty pizzas that are regularly ranked among the city’s best. ABC always carries the Beer City, USA torch proudly, and these days have multiple locations: the original, a downtown production brewery and pizzeria, plus a breezy outdoor beer garden called Rabbit Rabbit next door to its South Slope brewpub. Dine-in and patio seating are back in action, as is the bargain-priced movie theater as long as you’re able to provide proof of vaccination. All the beer is delicious here, but the standout is undoubtedly Ninja Porter, a super-smooth brown ale with two GABF World Cup medals under its Shinobi.
Beers to try: Ninja Porter, Perfect Day IPA
Just a couple blocks down from the Green Mansion, and behind Asheville’s venerable but currently shuttered Orange Peel music venue, sits Bhramari, a funky, taproom, brewhouse and restaurant. Named for the Hindu goddess of bees, this snug spot planned to call itself HiveMind, until the owners learned that name was already taken. But no one can take away their brewing prowess, thanks to a small system handed down from Green Man, with which they make first-rate sour and barrel-aged options. Try a year-rounder like The Good Fight (a sour pale ale) or order what everyone’s buzzing about (bee jokes!). The food here is great, too. Come hungry. There’s regular outdoor seating and you can make reservations for weekend indoor seating. Unusual for downtown, Bhramari has its own parking lot.
Beers to try: The Good Fight, Bumblestick Nut Brown
South Slope, Biltmore Village
Of all the breweries clustered throughout the former industrial South Slope district, Burial may be the most renowned. The original taproom and kitchen continue to pour a dizzying range of one-off brews, most with delightfully morbid names (Deathstalker, A Fall From Grace, A Cruel World Nevertheless). There’s lots of al fresco imbibing around here, as patio tables and gardens flank the building on three sides. Burial also operates a taproom in Raleigh, as well as a large production brewery, restaurant, and beer bar near Biltmore Village called Forestry Camp. Nestled into a hillside, the Camp’s beautifully renovated historic buildings once housed Civilian Conservation Corps workers, giving way to a menu inspired by French and Spanish traditions and teeming with local ingredients. Make sure to book ahead of time if you’re heading to Forestry Camp, especially if you’re eyeing a seat on the cool rooftop deck.
Beers to try: Surf Wax IPA, Shadowclock Pilsner
South Slope, Biltmore Village, & Morganton
The so-called “Craft Beer of the Carolinas” lives up to its slogan with a regional footprint stretching from two Asheville locations to the original Morganton taproom and production brewery east of Asheville, plus a spare production facility and taproom in Charlotte. Catawba also owns South Carolina’s Palmetto Brewing, where they’ve kept that historic brewery’s branding and lineup intact. All that expansion means they’re doing something right, and that something is brewing solid beers like the Hopness Haze and the widely loved White Zombie Ale. Catawba’s South Slope and Morganton outposts both have indoor and outdoor seating opportunities while the Biltmore Village location serves as a cozy taproom.
Beers to try: White Zombie, Hopness Haze
This recent Downtown stunner has proven to be one of the hippest spots in one of the nation’s hippest small downtowns. Who needs vowels, anyway? Trippy marketing influences range from heavy metal to psychedelic animation to comic books to internet memes, per the co-founders, whose motto is “Brewed until Surreal.” Touting itself as a beverage company, DSSOLVER plans to incorporate wine, cider, and mead into the mix, in addition to keeping the off-beat brews coming. The renovated historic building fronts one of Asheville’s oldest thoroughfares, and walk-up sidewalk pick-up is still a thing while the side patio is a great spot for watching the parade of tourists and Lexington Avenue regulars stream by.
Beers to try: Thank you for Existing Kolsch, Lil’ Devil’s Dream Beans Coffee Cream Ale
Eurisko has been keeping things simple and delicious since they flung open their doors to Short Coxe Avenue back in 2017, and thus extended the Brewing District’s reach a little farther south. Started by three high school friends from Charlotte, this renovated barbershop turned charcoal-hued brewhouse boasts a two-story taproom and a small but serviceable outdoor space littered with picnic tables. Partake in a tightly focused list of brews, and don’t miss out on Eurisko’s excellent porters and brown ales whenever available, as many are brewed with coffee from local roaster PennyCup. These days, they keep things rotating all the time and sell a selection of stuff in bottles via curbside pick-up. Bonus: Their branding is pretty slick, which makes their merch a hell of a lot more wearable than many breweries can claim.
Beers to try: Eurisko Cerveza Mexican Lager, Gesha Coffee Brown Ale
Named for the mythical sylvan woodland creature, Green Man is one of the elders of the Asheville craft beer scene. Since 1997, it’s been plying thirsty North Carolinians and guests with fresh, hop-forward beers brewed on eco-friendly brewing equipment at either the hulking “Green Mansion” (production facility built in 2016) or Dirty Jack’s, its eclectic tasting room where special releases like highly lauded DIPA The Rainmaker is brewed (98 on RateBeer). The Green Mansion is a bit austere, while at Jack’s the decor is funky and the atmosphere cozy. There are dog-friendly, shaded patios alongside both buildings. You know what to do.
Beers to try: Green Man Porter, Green Man IPA
Standing tall as Asheville’s oldest craft brewery, Highland kicked things off in 1994 and has been spreading WNC’s craft beer gospel throughout the region with widely distributed (and widely loved) classics ever since. Perched east of town along what’s become a beaten path for beer pilgrims, this sprawling, shipping container-studded taproom also boasts a family-friendly outdoor venue called The Meadow. The taproom, located inside the S&W Market—the city’s first food hall housed in the historic Art Deco S&W Cafeteria building—shares space with Buxton Chicken Palace, Peace Love Tacos, Bun Intended, and more, so grab an AVL IPA or Gaelic Ale (extremely coy tagline: “Asheville’s first beer”) and pair accordingly with local bites.
Beers to try: AVL IPA, Gaelic Ale
Biltmore Village, Old Fort
This no-nonsense outfit down the road from Biltmore Village has it going on. Family-owned since it opened in 2017, Hillman is less industrial-chic than some of its fellow AVL taprooms. Instead, it skews cozy, with low iron-wrought rafters and bistro lights above long communal tables inside, and large deck and patio spaces both out front and back. Beer names are refreshingly straightforward, and so are the beers, in the best possible way: try the DIPA or the ESB (a double GABF medalist). Hillman recently opened a taproom and second production space in dry Old Fort, after a legal battle to put breweries on par with wineries and allow them to serve beer from the place of manufacture -- even within dry municipalities. Both locations have delicious pub food menus chock full of locally-sourced ingredients.
Beers to try: Hillman DIPA, Hillman ESB
South Slope, Biltmore Village
Circus vibes reign supreme at Hi-Wire, an Asheville stalwart since 2013. That year, it earned Ratebeer.com’s best NC brewery honors and hasn’t looked back since. Check out the original location in the brewery district on South Slope, where they brew limited-run stuff. Or head out to just north of Biltmore Village, where you’ll find its “Big Top” production brewery and a much calmer scene. Both locations pour the brewery’s flagship lager and IPA, as well as specialty stuff. If you’re there late summer into fall, keep an eye out for Zirkusfest, a GABF gold-medal-winning Oktoberfest Maerzen. Oh, and the Foothills food truck at the Big Top has a killer Cuban and a tasty locally-sourced beef burger. Get to it.
Beers to try: Hi-Wire Lager, Hi-Pitch IPA
River Arts District
Just across the French Broad and almost within eyesight of Wedge sits New Belgium’s shiny East Coast craft colossus (the brewery’s headquarters remain in Colorado). Opened in 2016, this massive riverfront campus is actually located in town, as opposed to the also-spectacular East Coast outpost of fellow high-profile operation Sierra Nevada in nearby Mills River, affectionately known as Malt Disneyland. At New Belgium, there’s lots of outdoor space to enjoy the company’s staggering Euro-inflected array, from fresh pours of Voodoo Ranger IPA and flagship Fat Tire to one-off barrel-aged wonders brewed onsite. Food vendors can be found out front, and equally awesome is the expanded greenway below the brewery and along the French Broad River—although you’ll have to chug your adult beverage before stepping off of NBB’s campus.
Beers to try: Fat Tire Belgian-style Amber Ale, La Folie
River Arts District, Foundation
Nestled off the beaten path in the city’s wonderfully funky River Arts District, this humble brewery earned gold at the 2017 GABF. Wedge has been consistently churning out one of the city’s strongest, most focused all-around portfolios since opening in 2008. Both the OG taproom (located ground-level in the historic Wedge building) and the newer location (in another repurposed building that was once part of an early 20th century tannery) offer expansive outdoor seating. Grab the aforementioned lager or an Iron Rail IPA and enjoy the ambiance of these industrial-chic, graffiti-artist covered patios just a few blocks from the banks of the French Broad River. Food trucks rotate here, but don’t be afraid to get you some barbecue at the beloved 12 Bones Smokehouse next door to the Foundation taproom.
Beers to try: Iron Rail IPA, Golem Belgian Strong Golden Ale
Out of Towners
...Outside of AVL
There are many truly exceptional breweries surrounding the city and throughout western North Carolina, and we wouldn’t want you to miss them. Nearby breweries worth a car ride include: Pisgah, Fonta Flora, Zillicoah, Zebulon, Eluvium, Innovation, Riverside Rhapsody—thie list goes on. Also, two craft beer titans have set up facilities in nearby towns: Oskar Blues in Brevard, and Sierra Nevada in Mills River. So if you’ve got a few days (and a willing designated driver), sally forth, folks.